Melbourne (AFP)

Australian tennis legend Margaret Court said on Tuesday that she was honored by her promotion to the Order of Australia, an award which, however, sparked an uproar in public opinion because of her catches. outrageous position on apartheid or homosexuality.

The 78-year-old former player still holds the all-time Grand Slam title record with 24 trophies.

Now a Pentecostal pastor in Perth, Australia, she has come under heavy criticism for praising the apartheid system in South Africa, saying tennis is "full of lesbians" and transgender children are "the work of the devil".

She was elevated Tuesday to the rank of Companion of the Order of Australia, on the occasion of the national holiday.

But the awarding of this award sparked criticism, in particular from the Prime Minister of the State of Victoria Daniel Andrews, who recalled his "scandalous" and "hurtful" opinions.

In the process, the television journalist Kerry O'Brien, an Australian media figure, also distinguished, announced that he refused his medal to denounce the "lack of respect" that there can be in rewarding Mrs Court.

Clara Tuck Meng Soo, a lawyer engaged in the defense of the LGBTQ cause, also indicated that she would return her medal obtained in 2016.

For several years now, Ms. Court has sparked recurring controversy.

She had notably drawn the wrath of other tennis legends such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova when she announced that she was boycotting the Qantas airline on the grounds that its general manager supported marriage for all.

"No," Ms. Court replied to Australian radio 3AW, however, asking her if she was going to refuse her distinction to the Order of Australia.

"Because I love to represent my country."

"I was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for my involvement in my neighborhood, where we distributed 75 tonnes of food per week."

"This time it's for tennis, and I think it took a while to happen and I'm very honored. All I did was play for my country."

Ms Court declined to respond to Mr Andrews' comments, saying his controversial comments had been misrepresented by the media.

“I don't hate anyone, I love people, I love homosexuals and transgender people. We welcome them to our religious services, we don't turn anyone away,” she said.

Serena Williams, who currently has 23 Grand Slam titles, will try next month at the Australian Open to equal Margaret Court's record.

For her part, the latter has indicated that she will not go this year to Melbourne, where a court bears her name.

"I was not invited," she said.

"With the coronavirus, I have been very busy in my neighborhood. I didn't even think about it."

© 2021 AFP